Mark Drakeford has announced stricter Covid rules in Wales to try and manage the rise in the omicron variant.
In a wide ranging set of new rules including restrictions including the rule of six in hospitality, setting a maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 people outdoors as well as within private homes.
Below is the full speech made by the First Minister at his press conference this morning:
Thank you for joining me once again.
Here in Wales, the rapidly changing circumstances caused by the new omicron variant means we are reviewing the public health situation every week.
Even since I spoke to you on Friday, the number of confirmed omicron cases has risen sharply.
We are also seeing a rapid rise in the overall rates of coronavirus across Wales.
We expect this trend to continue and to accelerate.
Omicron is here in Wales and it is spreading quickly.
In England and Scotland, it has already overtaken delta and become the dominant variant. That will soon become the case in Wales.
Omicron has a doubling time of about two days. By Boxing Day, we will see many thousands of new cases across Wales every day.
Already, people are off work sick, putting essential services under strain. This situation will get worse.
This is an incredibly fast moving situation – just a few weeks ago, no one had heard about the omicron variant. Today most countries in the world are affected by it.
It’s the reason why the Cabinet has been meeting almost every day, looking at the very latest scientific advice and the latest data. We have been considering what protections we need after Christmas.
Last week, I said we would be introducing new measures for retail and workplaces when they re-open after Christmas.
On Tuesday, we decided sporting fixtures will move behind closed doors for the time being.
Today, I am confirming further measures to protect people’s health and to help businesses continue to trade after Christmas.
We are introducing a new alert level two for hospitality businesses, cinemas theatres and public gatherings – these measures have been tailored to the new omicron variant.
All alert level two measures, including for retail and workplaces and the closure of nightclubs, will come into force from 6am on Boxing Day.
The new measures will mean:
- A general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces, where reasonable.
- The rule of six will apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
- All licensed premises will need to take additional measures to protect customers and staff, including table service and collecting contact details.
- Face coverings will be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.
- Large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 people outdoors.
- There will be an exception for team sports, up to 50 spectators will be able to gather, in addition to those taking part. There is also an exception for events involving children.
- For important life events like weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and wakes, the numbers will be determined by the ability of the venue to manage social distancing and other reasonable measures. All guests will need to take a lateral flow test.
The Cabinet has decided not to make new legal rules about mixing in people’s private homes and gardens. We will issue updated and strengthened guidance to help keep people safe.
We’re doing this because some circumstances have changed – the population is largely vaccinated; the booster is being rolled out rapidly and lateral flow tests are easily available.
And, nearly two years since the pandemic started, we have all learned a great deal about how we can best protect ourselves.
Now is the time to redouble those efforts, drawing on everything we have learned.
Omicron thrives on human contact – every contact we have is an opportunity for us to spread or catch the virus and the home, where we are surrounded by family, is we are at our most vulnerable to infection.
To stay safe in our own homes, we are advising everyone follows five simple measures:
- Limit the number of people visiting your home.
- If people are visiting, make sure they take a lateral flow test before they come.
- Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
- Space out any visits.
- And don’t forget about social distancing and washing your hands.
We will reinstate a specific offence for large gatherings in private homes. This is because omicron particularly likes large gatherings and enclosed spaces.
We want these measures to be in place for the shortest possible time and they will be kept under review.
Moving to alert level two is designed to help businesses continue to trade while also strengthening measures to protect people’s health.
But these measures will have an impact on businesses.
£120m will be available for nightclubs, events, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses affected by the move to alert level two – double the new funding of £60m we announced last week.
The economy minister will announce further details about this support tomorrow.
We have also announced additional funds to support sports venues and arts and cultural organisations affected by the pandemic.
The wider context in which we are making decisions continues to change rapidly.
We are making one further change to the rules today.
Fully-vaccinated adults and children aged five to 17, who are identified as contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, will now be asked to take a daily lateral flow test for seven days instead of self-isolating.
This is known as daily contact testing.
People who have daily negative tests will be able to continue going to work as normal, while following all the steps to keep themselves safe, including limiting the number of people they mix with as much as possible.
If you have not been double-vaccinated and are identified as a close contact of someone who has Covid you must self-isolate.
Children under five are exempt from self-isolation if they are close contacts.
The Health Minister is considering advice from the Chief Medical Officer about potential changes to self-isolation arrangements for people who fall ill and we are expecting to receive recommendations from the JCVI about the vaccination of young children.
None of us wants to see the return to alert levels and restrictions.
But we are now entering the most serious phase of the pandemic to date.
We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves and keep Wales safe.
We can work together and we will get through this.
There will be brighter days ahead.
Diolch o galon i chi gyd a Nadolig Llawen i phawb.
I will now take questions from journalists. As usual, all the answers will be broadcast live on our social media.
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